As many of you know, I am a former Evangelical, the fascinating American religion of the frontier based on the dramatic born again experience and a life dedicated to the Bible and to the fighting off of the evils of liberalism. And for the first nearly thirty years of my life, that’s how I rolled.
There’s a weird obsession with virginity, within evangelicalism, at least there was when I was growing up and when I was in my twenties. There were stern warnings for the youth against all of the evils of premarital sex, along with subtle (and not so subtle) forms of slut shaming for those who indulged the desires of the flesh.
But there was a more positive twist on it. To promote the virtues of virginity there was discussion about finding The One, the soul mate that God had prepared for you, that one special someone made just for you (and visa versa). Putting it that way (and leaving it at that) had a way of stirring my imagination, sometimes in wild ways. Surely if an earnest young Christian waited for The One, then that soul mate would fulfill all of my needs and desires — it could be everything I always wanted, to fulfill all of the deepest romantic desires and sexual fantasies. And certainly God would want to reward a person who would forgo sexual experimentation in favor of waiting it out and being faithful to The One, wouldn’t he?
So, you aren’t going to have sex?!?
And I was a pretty earnest kid when it came to all things spiritual and religious. That’s why I surprised even myself one day at my conservative Christian high school when I told everyone that I would be single all of my life.
Now that was provocative. I can’t recall the context, or what prompted me to say that, but it created a stir, such an edgy departure from the norm, which may have been why I said it. (The urge to be provocative always seems to compete with the part of me that is earnest and sincere.)
But more edgy still was my answer to the question posed to me: So, you aren’t going to have sex?!?
“Well,” I said, not wanting to concede, “I didn’t say that I wouldn’t have sex.”
It was one of those comments that sort of just happened, and I’m not quite sure why I said it, why I crossed such a blatant line, back then, because I really did believe all of the stuff about sex and virginity and waiting and The One. Perhaps, though, there was some part of me, inside, that was less than entirely convinced.
Thinking back on the story, now, more than twenty years later, I feel surprised in a different way because (despite whatever reservations I had) I had fully expected to go down the Evangelical road: to get married, and to wait until marriage for sex. I’m happy I didn’t. Not that there’s anything wrong with having one life partner — and of course there are people who marry their soul mate, who meet The One — but not everyone does. And in a yet greater strain on conventional wisdom, I know people who meet more than one soul mate, and sometimes these two (or more) people exist within one’s life at the same time. But I digress.
Convention is the path laid out for us, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with convention, but my life path seems to have been the one less traveled, the one to ask questions others didn’t ask, to buck convention. It’s become the life of a hermit vagabond, but it resonates with me, quite strongly. A life of solitude and exploration, of writing and reflection.